People facing homelessness in the Western Bay area of South Wales will have greater support fighting through legal and administrative bureaucracy, thanks to a grant from South Wales Freemasons

Shelter Cymru, the Welsh people and homes charity, has been awarded £20,000 to help deliver a unique project entitled 'Housing Support Plus' working across the Western Bay covering Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

The grant from South Wales Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

This grant will support a vital personal service for people facing homelessness, supporting them at a very difficult time and giving them reassurance. It will see a new Housing Advocacy Volunteer Coordinator recruiting and training volunteers who will themselves directly support more than 200 people or families every year.

The service is aimed at people who are not sufficiently aware of their rights around housing and benefit issues and who need additional support to engage with caseworkers. There is also a special focus on practical issues such as arranging pre-meetings to ensure paperwork is completed, taking notes and providing individuals with a meeting record and information on next steps and actions. 

Michelle Wales, Campaigns Manager at Shelter Cymru, said: 'We greatly welcome this grant from South Wales Freemasons. It will help us to provide essential support to people who often do not have a roof over their heads and who are struggling with bureaucracy.'

Speaking at a presentation in Cardiff, Provincial Grand Master of South Wales Freemasons, Gareth Jones OBE, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to support Shelter Cymru, who carry out excellent work with some of the most vulnerable people in our community.'

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has just approved its first grants of 2014 totalling £842,500

Ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 each, they support nineteen significant causes across the UK.

Charities to receive funding include:

Speaking about the Major Grants programme Laura Chapman, Chief Executive at The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, said:

'The Freemasons’ Grand Charity seeks to help people in need, and we are dedicated to helping people who are socially disadvantaged, disabled, seriously ill, homeless, or facing economic and social deprivation. It is our hope that the positive impact of these grants will be felt by thousands of people facing difficulties.'

Quotes from the supported charities

'Red Balloon is extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for donating £25,000 to our Bursary Fund for places at one of our Centres in Cambridge, Norwich, NW London or Reading, our mini Centre in Braintree or on Red Balloon of the Air. 

'This money will enable us to help the recovery of severely bullied children who hide under their duvets, depressed, self-harming and with suicidal thoughts unable to attend mainstream school. 

'The donation will help us to provide more children with a full-time education and therapeutic support, to get their life back.'

Dr Carrie Herbert MBE, Founder and President, Red Balloon Learner Centre Group                                           

'Raleigh International harnesses the passion and energy of young people to create positive change in very poor communities around the world.

'We are very grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for its support of our programme for disadvantaged young people – this will contribute to transforming lives abroad as well as in the UK.'

Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of London, Trustee of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, Trustee of Raleigh International

 'We are extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for their generosity in providing bursaries for high ability students from less advantaged backgrounds to attend our Inspiring Excellence Programme Courses which they would otherwise be unable to afford. 

'Far too many able young people substantially underachieve, creating a major block to improving social mobility in the UK. With the support of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity we are working to overcome this through inspiring young people to fulfil their potential.'

Richard Gould, Chief Executive, Villiers Park Educational Trust

'Mind is delighted to receive this significant contribution towards the development of a smartphone app for our Elefriends online support network. At, people with experience of mental health problems support each other in a safe and friendly space. This grant will mean that even more people with experience of mental health problems are able to give or receive peer support wherever and whenever they need it.'

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind

Further grant details

Medical research

The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation has received £50,000 to fund research into the development of stimuli responsive materials, which are able to detect and respond to changes in a healing burn and diabetic wounds to help the repair process.

Cancer Research UK has received £100,000 to fund Dr Thorsten Hagemann’s pancreatic cancer research at Barts Cancer Institute. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £50,000 towards the project.

The National Society for Epilepsy has received £50,000 to fund research into the genetic causes of epilepsy through exome DNA sequencing techniques.

The University of Leicester has received £33,000 to fund a clinical trial into the treatment of heart attack patients with the application of remote ischemic conditioning. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £16,500 towards the project.

Youth opportunities

Chetham’s School of Music has received £75,000 payable over three years to fund the school’s community outreach services in disadvantaged areas.

Envision has received £25,000 to fund a community project in Bristol aiming to develop the confidence and skills of young people.

Red Balloon Learner Centres has received £25,000 to fund bursaries for severely bullied children to attend specialist learner centres, to build their resilience before returning to mainstream education.

SkillForce has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund the Onto Next Steps programme in Norfolk and Kent. The programme will mentor and coach pupils who are at risk of exclusion from education, and face subsequent unemployment.

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal has received £50,000 to engage with disadvantaged young people by funding Raleigh International’s youth agency partnership programme in the UK.

Villiers Park Educational Trust has received £25,000 to fund bursaries to enable disadvantaged young people to attend educational courses for raising academic achievement and developing employability skills, to help them gain places at leading universities.

Vulnerable people

Carers UK has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund its national advice and information service; providing expert advice and support on financial and practical matters for the estimated 6.5 million carers in the UK.

Designability has received £25,000 to fund the manufacture of powered wheelchairs called Wizzybugs for disabled pre-school children, which help them to get around with their peers and to learn spatial awareness.

Fledglings Family Services has received £13,000 to fund the cost of printing 26,000 copies of a brochure that will help families to find the best specialist products for children with special needs.

Mind has received £40,000 to help train 720 peer-supporters and to fund the development of a smartphone application, aiming to increase peer support hours by 20%.

Parkinson’s UK has received £90,000 payable over two years to fund the salary and costs of a Parkinson’s nurse specialist in Lancashire.

Phab has received £10,000 to fund courses on inclusive living experiences and skills for independence for disabled people.

Shelter has received £25,000 to fund its advice service in Norfolk. In 2012/13 the charity saw a 47% rise in people seeking help, and 2,400 households in Norfolk faced eviction or repossession.

The Children’s Trust has received £13,000 to fund the salary of the online co-ordinator of the Brain Injury Hub; a resource providing accurate information and advice to families on childhood acquired brain injury.

The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home in Sussex has received £60,000 payable over two years to fund the occupational therapy department; providing residential, nursing and rehabilitation services to disabled veterans and their dependants.

Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 06 December 2013 00:00

Putting a roof over their heads

More than a shelter

While the number of homeless young people in the UK is on the rise, their predicament remains a hidden problem. A grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity is helping to give young people a roof over their heads as well as the strength to find a better future.

Emily Phillips’s vivid pink hair adds some colour to the white walls and worn black sofas of the night shelter in Blackburn she once called home. It would be easy to mistake the boldness of the colour as an indicator of a brash personality, but she has a quiet confidence that has allowed her to overcome becoming homeless at the age of eighteen.

More than seventy-five thousand people aged sixteen to twenty-four in the UK will experience homelessness this year, and, like Emily, struggle to find a place to sleep each night. They will do this while trying to hold down a job or keep studying at college. Emily was beginning a qualification in childcare when she split up with her boyfriend, whom she had been living with. 

A family breakdown at a young age meant that without relatives to turn to, she spent the next three months sleeping on couches.

‘People don’t think that sleeping on sofas is as serious as sleeping rough, but it’s scary. You’ve got a roof over your head for that night but you have no idea where you’ll be tomorrow,’ recalls Emily. Eventually she sought the help of her college liaison officer who put her in touch with Chris Egan, a support worker at Nightsafe. ‘It was a huge burden off my shoulders knowing that there was someone out there who wanted me to be safe.’

Nightsafe runs a shelter in Blackburn, housing homeless young  people for up to nine nights before they are moved to longer term accommodation at one of its housing projects (Cornfield Cliffe, where Emily has lived for more than a year, and the Witton Project), helped into social housing or given emergency support. 

Five other young people live alongside Emily in Cornfield, where they will stay for up to two years, provided they continue with work, training or education. The stability has enabled Emily to finish her childcare qualification and she has been offered a job as a nursery nurse, which she will start after she returns from a trip to Uganda, where she is volunteering at a school. 

Excited by the opportunities ahead, Emily has been raising money for the Ugandan trip for the past six months. ‘If it wasn’t for Nightsafe I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now. I don’t know what I would have done. I would have been stuck.’

‘We try and build up the self-esteem of people who come through our doors. It’s easy to feel rejected when you’re made homeless aged sixteen.’ Linda Sharratt

National reach

Thousands of young people across the country find themselves ‘stuck’ every day without a stable home address, hoping that it will be a temporary predicament and that they can avoid the lasting stigma of homelessness. These young adults are the new face of a national population, one that poverty experts and case workers say is growing. Yet the problem is mostly invisible.  

Centrepoint is a leading charity providing a safe place to live for more than one thousand young people each year in London and the North East. It is now reaching out to help regional shelters, and grants totalling £220,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity have funded its national Partnering Project. 

By providing a free consultancy to voluntary organisations, it enables them to build their capacity to support more youngsters. 

Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of the Grand Charity, recognises the importance of pooled resources and a collective effort: ‘The project enables Centrepoint to help many more young people than would otherwise be possible. Having been closely involved from the pilot stage, we are delighted the programme has been successful and is being rolled out further.’

Part of Centrepoint’s offering to Nightsafe is LifeWise, a scheme developed to offer the young people living at the shelter the opportunity to gain an AQA-accredited qualification in life skills. Jim Sexton, development manager for Centrepoint, trains managers, carers and volunteers to deliver the qualification. ‘Most of the young people have missed out on the basic skills that the rest of us take for granted. We aim to get them to a point where they can re-enter education, find work, and live independently.’ 

‘People don’t think that sleeping on sofas is as serious as sleeping rough, but it’s scary. You’ve a roof over your head for a night but no idea where you’ll be tomorrow.’ Emily Phillips

Laying foundations

Simple things like teaching people how to open a bank account, write a CV or cook a healthy meal are all included in the qualification. ‘Even if the content isn’t life-changing for some people, for many it will be the first time in their lives they’ve become qualified in anything,’ says Sexton. ‘It’s about getting people interested in learning and used to having a goal in mind.’

The need to focus on the long-term future of homeless people is a sentiment echoed by the chief executive of Nightsafe, Linda Sharratt: ‘One of our goals is to try and build up the confidence and self-esteem of the people who come through our doors. It’s easy to feel rejected when you’re made homeless aged sixteen.’ 

Sharratt and her team helped two hundred and fifty-three young people last year, about half of whom had slept rough during that time. When it comes to judging success, Sharratt does so on a case-by-case basis: ‘Emily’s done amazingly well, but for others, just making small steps forward is a huge deal.’

The LifeWise programme is just one facet of support that Centrepoint is able to provide to Nightsafe and thirty-seven other charities, located everywhere from Kent to Carlisle, thanks to the Grand Charity’s grant. ‘We bring these small organisations a level of support that allows them to continue to provide their services locally,’ says Sexton. ‘Our partners are a diverse group – some provide accommodation, others provide guidance – but what they all have in common is the aspiration to support homeless and vulnerable young people, just like Centrepoint.’ 

The partnerships also benefit Centrepoint, which can tap into local expertise in order to align its national strategy with changing government policy. ‘It’s not just about putting a roof over someone’s head, we need to think longer term about how to support young people so they can go on to live independently,’ says Sexton. ‘If it wasn’t for the funding from Freemasons, Centrepoint partnering wouldn’t exist, and these partnerships have the power to provide a route out of homelessness.’

Helping the homeless

Freemasons have a long tradition of trying to help people affected by homelessness, through support given by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. National charity Crisis, for example, has received £705,000 in total – including a significant donation in 2000, which assisted almost four hundred people out of homelessness. Emmaus, Shelter, Depaul UK and Centrepoint have also received donations (together totalling almost £740,000), all of which have aimed to help people find accommodation and also to provide them with opportunities to rebuild their lives in safe and secure environments. In total, the Grand Charity has donated nearly £1.5 million towards supporting homeless people since it was established more than thirty years ago. 

Published in The Grand Charity

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